Compost at Givens Estates is made in-house as part of our sustainability initiative. We use it for planting new foliage, amending soil, top dressing lawns, filling planters, and more. You might be wondering how we make our compost. First, the grounds team collects fallen leaves. We use a big leaf vacuum for this; we would never get all the leaves up without our leaf vacuum. As we collect the leaves, we begin to pile them all together into a huge mountain. Once we have collected all of the leaves and have a big enough pile, we let mother nature do its job. The sun bakes the leaves and the break down process begins. During this time the temperature of the leaf pile runs between 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit, the ideal range for breaking down leaves. If the pile is less than 140 degrees, we add nitrogen to help raise the temperature. If the temperature is above 160 degrees, we use our mini excavator to rotate and turn the pile, turning the pile inside-out to ensure the leaves break down evenly.
After the leaves have broken down, the ideal temperature for the pile is 100 to 120 degrees. By keeping a close eye on the temperature, we can determine when it’s time to add the molasses. This is for feeding all the good bacteria, fungi, and nematodes within the pile. The molasses and sugars act as food for all the good living organisms in the pile. This ensures the quality of the compost, and that’s what everyone wants – nutrient rich compost for healthy campus fauna. We continue to turn the pile while also continuing to add the molasses and humic acid on a 3-week schedule. After all this is done it is time for the screening process. We screen the pile we just created to get the finer compost, but also to remove any sticks, rocks, etc. It takes about a week for the whole pile to be screened.
The whole process spans several seasons, from fall to early spring. We are in the final stages just in time for spring and all the gardening.
Article by Givens Estates Turf Crew Lead, Dylan Lowery